by Madeleine Hubbard
WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian prison in a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to multiple media reports Thursday morning.
President Joe Biden said Griner is safe and on her way home during an address Thursday with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, and Vice President Kamala Harris. He thanked the United Arab Emirates for helping facilitate Brittney Griner’s return home.
“She’s lost months of her life,” he said.
“We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for four years,” Biden said. The United States offered a deal to Russia over the summer to repatriate both Griner and former Marine Whelan, who is serving a hard labor sentence after being arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage.
“This was not a choice about which American to bring home,” Biden said. “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case different than Britney’s, and while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up.”
Griner pleaded guilty in July to drug charges after she was arrested in February in a Moscow-area airport for having a cannabis vape in her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a forced-labor camp.
Biden did not mention the reported prisoner swap during his address Thursday morning.
Bout, a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to kill Americans and provide material support to terrorists, including the Colombian FARC guerilla army. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder called Bout “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers” and said his “arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades.”
This is a developing story …
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Madeleine Hubbard joined Just the News as a fast file reporter after working as an editor at Breitbart News. She previously served as the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo “Brittany Griner” by CC4.0.